As I start this blog, we are well into our trip north in Canada. We loved our time in Glacier National Park, but some of the areas outside the park left a lot to be desired. Restaurants, grocery stores, roads, dirt, more dirt, powdery dirt, mud, and some pretty rude drivers topped our list. It was a two hour drive from St. Mary to anyplace decent to shop – we’re talking Walmart here. For those who live outside the major cities in this part of Montana, dirt roads, dirt dust, and mud are the norm.
Car washing products are non-existent in most stores – Kalispell being the exception. When we asked, we were told, “We don’t wash our cars… why bother?” I’ve never seen so many dirty cars and trucks. Bugs plaster the front of every vehicle like the love bugs in Florida during May and September. As for the drivers – I have never before asked another driver if they would please let us out onto the road and been adamantly told “no.” We were also run down, screamed and cursed at for driving our CRV in the left lane in downtown Kalispell for going 28mph in a 25mph zone. The polite young man in the pickup truck told me to get the *$&# out of the inside lane because the inside lane is for faster moving traffic. A speed lane in the middle of downtown… really? I thanked him for welcoming us to Montana! By the way – we needed to be in the left lane to turn.
Now that I finished my rant… The scenery in Glacier and the surrounding area is incredibly beautiful. I mean it is head-turning beautiful everywhere you look. I feel blessed that Anna and I were able to experience the natural wonders that Glacier has to offer. We finished our hiking extravaganza in Glacier National Park on June 12th, and headed north to Canada after a six hour driving detour for a couple of maintenance items. We couldn’t have found a better LTV dealer (Creston RV in Kalispell, Montana) or a better technician to help us. Jamie jumped on the repairs immediately and had us back on the road in two hours. For those of you who don’t own an RV, this is what is called a “miracle” in the RV maintenance world. Many thanks to Jamie and Creston RV for the great service visit!
After we left Creston RV, we had about a six-hour drive to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, where we camped in a private campground just outside the entrance to Waterton Lakes. We were plagued by low voltage issues in the campground causing some RV electrical issues. We had this issue at other campgrounds in years past and so far have not had any electronics damaged. We did have two very nice Canadian couples for neighbors who invited us over for a late night fireside chat on our last night at the park. Although Waterton Lakes is in reality just a northern extension of Glacier National Park in Montana, it has a completely feel. The glacial ice fields are almost non-existent and there aren’t nearly the quantity and quality of scenic hikes. One of the first sights you see when entering the park is Prince of Wales Hotel. We didn’t arrive in time for high tea! The hotel is perched high upon a cliff overlooking Waterton Lake. Much of the draw to this park is the town of Waterton Village which is very picturesque.
An international boat cruise is available to take tourist (including us) from the dockside in downtown Waterton Village (Townsite) across the border to Goat Haunt in Northern Montana. Waterton Lake is the deepest natural mountain lake in the Canadian Rockies, with an average depth of 260′. A passport was not required for the cruise unless you intended to hike one you arrived in the United States. One of our favorite restaurants here was (Trapper’s Mountain Grill) in Waterton Townsite. We met the owners and their family. They treated us like we were old friends. We loved that place. We did see some Rocky Mountain sheep, and a few more bears in Waterton Lakes, though none were in ideal settings for photography. One of the areas we really wanted to visit in Waterton Lakes is the area known as Red Rock Canyon. We were so disappointed. It was like Myrtle Beach. Hundreds of children swimming through the minuscule water flow, teenagers sunbathing in lawn chairs, picnic lunches and clothing strewn all over the canyon. I really couldn’t believe that the Parks Canada people allowed this to go on in what the advertise as one of the prettiest locations in the park. No photos here, but we did hike to Blakiston Falls at the end of a hike past the canyon. The falls were fed by glacial runoff in a pretty stream setting above the falls.
We departed Waterton Lakes after only two days, and it was definitely time to move on the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. The campground (they call it a trailer park) in Banff is unlike any we have ever stayed in. There are very long and wide streets with utility connections along the side where each camper obtained their electric, water, and sewer connections. Between each asphalt road was a row of picnic tables, grass and trees in place to attempt to provide a park type feel. We did meet several nice couples at the campground – a Leisure Travel Van couple from Charleston, and our neighbors, Brian and Jumi Harris. Brian is a very good photographer. He and Jumi are interested in a Leisure Travel Van like ours. Even though Banff was north of Glacier, most of the mountain peaks had already lost their snow covered caps by the time we arrived. The city of Banff is inside the national park. It has the feel of a Gatlinburg, TN and Jackson, WY tourist town. There were more people than space, and every store was a tourist trap. We did have a pleasant dinner in Wild Buffalo Bills Saloon. Our server was a student from England and she went out of her way to make our dinner very enjoyable. Later that evening we visited the Banff Fairmont Hotel to see how the high-dollar tourists vacation. Two very large groups had booked the hotel. There were a gazillion employees on duty to insure we didn’t mingle with the guests. We were politely given directions on how to exit the hotel… well! We spent as much time as possible outside of the town.
The next day the forest fires started spreading our way from British Columbia to just west of our location in Banff. We visited the Cave and Basin historical site, the birthplace of Canada’s national parks in the morning. That evening the mountains and valleys in and around Banff became choked with smoke. We didn’t realize how bad it was getting until we took a gondola to the top of Sulfur Mountain in Banff where we had a birds eye view of the choking smoke heading our way. The skies were clear to the south, but blazing red smoke was rising in the west, and sinking air had gray smoke filling the townsite and the surrounding areas. The top of Sulfur Mountain had a very nice and informative nature and history museum along with a couple restaurants in a four-story complex. Walkways guided visitors over the top of the mountain to the Sanson Peak weather station.
On our last day at the Banff campground we drove to Kootenay National Park where we hiked the Marble Canyon. A moose was strategically located on the side of the road to greet us as we entered the area. We then drove to the southern end of the park to visit Radium Hot Springs for a quick lunch (nothing else there – believe me). We hiked to the painted pots on our return trip. They really just looked like mud, and did not compare on any scale to the painted pots in Yellowstone National Park.
The Lake Louise area was next on our list. We decided to relocate the RV there instead on making drives back and forth on the Icefields Parkway. It was a short drive and we arrived late morning. We immediately headed out to Yoho National Park which is located just west of Lake Louise. Our first stop was the confluence of the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers and Takakkaw Falls. A very scenic location.
Later in the evening we drove to Moraine Lake to survey the area for a sunrise photo the following morning. The end of the lake was the site of an avalanche many years ago. The “rock pile” resulting from the avalanche has a commanding presence at the end of the lake and it is the best location from which to take sunrise photos. I did walk the floating logs and climb part of the rock pile that evening, but determined it was too dangerous to traverse in the dark the following morning. We found that the Canada Parks service had built a pedestrian friendly path that would get me close to the photography location I sought, without sampling Canadian emergency rooms. We stayed late into the evening talking with a nice family from Canada whose son, Keith, is interested in Clemson. Later in the parking lot, we noticed Keith and his sister, Vanessa, taking iPhone photos of our Clemson license tag! We were exhausted the following morning, so we waited an extra day to hit the rock pile at 5:00a.m. We were glad we waited, because the morning we went provided us with a beautiful mountain sunrise.
We did make it to Lake Louise that evening for a sunset photo, and also visited the Lake Louise Fairmont Hotel. The hotel was elegant, but not our cup of tea. Although the skies did not cooperate, the scene around the lake was peaceful. We also made it to Mirror Lake the following day, which unfortunately was not very mirror like. Let me just say, “If you give a child a shoreline full of rocks and a lake to throw them into, well – you are going to have ripples,” and if you have a lot of children… you get the picture – no mirror. The hike to Mirror Lake is grueling in the afternoon. We talked about continuing our hike past Mirror Lake up to the Agnes Tea Room, but listened to our quads, calves, and heartbeats instead of our want to’s. The remainder of the hike was a short distance, but it had a rapid 700 feet elevation change. We turned back, and my swollen feet thanked me. There was a bear issue on the trail after we ascended, but we weren’t aware of an issue until we returned to the hotel area.
We were ready to chill after all of the hiking, climbing, and lack of sleep, so the next morning we headed north to the Columbia Ice Fields and the Athabasca Glacier. We definitely chilled! More to come in the next blog…
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